The female condom — also called an internal condom — is a birth control (contraceptive) device that acts as a barrier to keep sperm from entering the uterus. It protects against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The female condom is a soft, loosefitting pouch with a ring on each end. One ring is inserted into the vagina to hold the female condom in place. The ring at the open end of the condom remains outside the vagina. The outer ring helps keep the condom in place and is also used for removal. The female condom can be used during anal sex, too.
Only two female condoms — the FC1 female condom and its replacement, the FC2 female condom — have Food and Drug Administration approval in the U.S. The FC1 female condom, which is made of plastic (polyurethane), is no longer being produced. The FC2 female condom is made of synthetic latex — safe for those with allergies to natural rubber latex — and is pre-lubricated with a silicone-based lubricant.
The female condom helps prevent pregnancy. You may also use a female condom to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during anal sex. Among various benefits, the female condom:
According to the FC2 website, the FC2 is reimbursable if you have insurance and a prescription from a doctor. Health care organizations that offer web-based (virtual) visits also may allow you to obtain a prescription to send to a pharmacy. If you don't have insurance, you can directly purchase the female condom from the website. FC2 may also be available through universities and community health-based organizations such as Planned Parenthood.
Unlike latex — the material used to make most male condoms — female condoms are made of polyurethane and synthetic latex, which is safe for people who are allergic to natural rubber latex. Female condoms aren't affected by dampness or changes in temperature. In addition, some women find that the female condom's external ring stimulates the clitoris.
The female condom isn't appropriate for everyone, however. You may want to consider another type of birth control if you:
Up to 21 out of 100 women will become pregnant in a year of typical use of female condoms — possibly because they don't use condoms every time they have sex.
The female condom has a higher failure rate than the male condom. Condom failure means it's possible to contract sexually transmitted infections or become pregnant. The female condom may not protect you if:
The female condom may also cause discomfort during insertion, a burning sensation, itching or a rash.
Before using a female condom, read the instructions carefully. If the condom is past its expiration date or you notice any signs of damage — such as small tears or holes — discard the condom and choose another.
Practice inserting the female condom before the first time you use it for sex. In addition, pay close attention when you first use the female condom to make sure it stays in place during sex. Never reuse a female condom.
Don't use a female condom at the same time as a male condom. They can stick together, which might cause one or both condoms to break. The female condom isn't currently FDA-approved for anal sex.
To use the female condom:
Insert the female condom. Squeeze the ring at the closed end of the pouch with your middle finger and thumb and insert it into your vagina like a tampon. Place your index finger inside the condom and push the ring up as far as it will go.
Don't allow the condom to twist. Make sure the outer ring remains outside the vagina, extending about 1 inch (or about 2.5 centimeters) beyond the labia. You can place the female condom inside your vagina up to eight hours before sex.